It’s we…. not he or she

My head and my heart are full after a spectacular day at the OmniwomenUK summit on Thursday. 

The speakers were outstanding. The stimulation exceptional. And the expectation for change huge. 

But the thing that struck me most is that too many still see this as a ‘them and us’ issue. Woman fighting the men. Women solving the problems and challenging the system themsleves. Woman, alone. 

I loved when Shelley Zalis said this is about ‘we, not he or she’. We are all in this together. And although some may not know it, men will benefit just as much from equality as woman will. 

That’s why my friend Phil Bartlett’s speech ‘Boys don’t cry’ was so perfectly pitched. Boys and men are brought up to think, behave, and not feel a certain way. Society needs to change that. As the Mum of a boy, I’m determined that he knows that he can be anything, and that it doesn’t need to be at the expense of anyone else. And he can certainly cry, no matter what age he is I’ll always be there to give him the biggest of cuddles. 

Phil Bartlett

I am a strong woman. I am really very good at my job. I’m an excellent mother. I make mistakes all the time, and I learn from them. I love hard and I feel emotions. Sometimes I’m angry, most of the time I’m overflowing with optimism and happiness. I want the world to be a better place and I’m willing to work hard to have an impact. As Sam Phillips said ‘not everyone can change the world, but everyone can try and change the world for one person’. Amen sister. 

Sam Phillips

The theme of OmniwomenUK 2018 was ‘Take it on’. At Ketchum in London we are going to collectively pledge to take on one initiative, so more to come on that. But I’m also going to take something on personally. And it’s this. Every single day I’m going to try and do something that matters for another woman in my life. At work, at home, for my friends. Something that makes their day a little easier, a little better, and gives them the support they specifically need. What are you going to take on?

It takes 2…. hundred and forty baby!

They say that as you get older time passes much more quickly, well I can certainly vouch for that. The first nine weeks of the year have flown past, so it’s important to pause and appreciate the great things we have achieved and the lessons learned.

February has been another global whirlwind. I spent a week in Abu Dhabi and I am currently writing this blog from Beijing. Working for a global border-less agency like Ketchum, means we are lucky that our clients take us all over the world.

Beijing

We also get to celebrate client milestones, and so I was absolutely delighted to join Mastercard at the O2 to celebrate 20 years of sponsoring the BRIT Awards. It was a spectacular evening with stand-out performances from Liam Gallagher and Stormzy. I may have looked like a walking version of the new Ketchum London credentials…… but hey, every opportunity is a marketing opportunity – right?!?


I am also so proud of the work we have been doing with Discovery and Eurosport. They absolutely smashed their first Olympics and we were the lucky agency to be partnering with them every step of the way.

Sam at the Winter Olympics

So whilst February has been crazy, it has also been really rewarding.

One of the reasons I love my job and the big agency life, is that success is all down to relationships. It is about the trust you build in the agency between colleagues, the trust you build with clients, and the trust you build with your boss that you will deliver against the vision of the organisation. Relationships matter.

And relationships take work. That is one of the reasons I am excited to be pretty much grounded in March. I am looking forward to spending more time in the office connecting and working with my colleagues and making use of my new club….. as I am a founder member of the AllBright club on Rathbone Place www.theallbright.com

Debbie and Anna at the AllBright Club

The AllBright is the first women’s only members club in the UK for ‘working women’ (although we can take men as guests). It was founded by two fabulous women Debbie Wosskow and Anna Jones, as a place where women can do business, support each other, and ultimately build relationships that last. So I am looking forward to taking clients and colleagues to my new found happy place in the centre of London where I can support (and be supported by) talented women from across London and the UK.

I really have loved every minute of my new role as London CEO. I can already see the entrepreneurial spirit of our people from all over the business having an impact day-to-day, and I know if Ketchum London is to truly break new ground and trailblaze the industry, it is going to take all 240 of us…….

Creativity belongs to everyone

In creative industries we like to put people in boxes. Planner. Strategist. Client handler. Researcher. Creative…… but the life blood of any agency is the ability to curate and empower creativity. And creativity really can come from anywhere. So if you pigeonhole people then you are way less likely to get the best ideas 💡.

The award winning break through work really comes when everyone is helping to create the ideas. When there is a permission to contribute, to offer an opinion, to push the boundaries, people from all parts of the business feel empowered to create. And this really makes a difference.

In any walk of life, but especially in agency life, there is no sole owner of creativity. In fact, creatives who are the most successful are those who can connect with others and allow others to grow through the creative process.

Having spent my professional life as a lobbyist and then a corporate reputation specialist, it would be easy for some people to consider me as more sober than creative! But that totally fails to understand what creativity actually is, and as said previously how it can come from any walk of life.

I’ve spent 26 years involved in baton twirling, first as an athlete, then a coach and judge. One of the things I get most joy out of is choreographing new programmes for talented athletes. From choosing the music, to selecting the moves, to advising on the costume, I love every moment of the process. But the most joy I get is when I see the final performance on the competition floor. Why? Because that is when you see the athlete bring their own style, character, and performance to the creation. It is when you see their creativity come to life. It is when the partnership you’ve formed, the trust you’ve built, comes to fruition in the creative process.

The two clips I’ve selected to share below are of a 12 year old Eilidh Francis performing ‘Little Bird’ in 2015, and a 13 year old Abbie Davidson performing ‘Peter Pan’ earlier this year. They might be young, but their creativity is absolutely wonderful to see, and I’m so proud to play a part in their twirling careers alongside their coach Sarah and their mums Audrey and Haley.

Little Bird:

Peter Pan:

 

Creativity is a powerful tool to engage and develop people of all skills and backgrounds. Inspiration can come from anywhere. If creativity exists in a vacuum it is useless, because creativity belongs to everyone.

Who am I? 

I had a brilliant night last night at the Ivy Club where I shared a platform with three spectacular women. The topic was an age old debate about whether women can have a successful career and a family. Crazy right. How can we still be having this debate in 2017. 

But it was fascinating to hear the experiences of Viv, Claudette, Julia, and the audience members. The themes that were discussed were on the whole nothing new. 

  • Employers pre-judging pregnant women and mothers and making future career decisions based on their ‘commitment’
  • Lack of flexibility 
  • Being evaluated on presenteeism rather than outcomes and impact
  • Women not being kind to each other and offering a hand up 
  • The stigma of being defined as a ‘mummy’

But despite all this, what was clear was the progress that has been made over the past 40 years. The experience of Claudette, who’s eldest is 44, is incredibly different to mine with a 15 month old. And this should be celebrated. The progress made should be applauded, but there should be no let up in demanding that businesses and society recognise the importance of women in the workplace and the impact working mums can have. 

Julia and Viv both work for themselves.  They’ve opted out of the traditional workplace and made a huge success of their careers and home life. This is increasingly an option more and more women are taking as it allows them to define their working patterns and be masters of their own destiny. 

My own experience has been nothing but positive. Why? Because I work for an incredibly progressive business. Because my husband is a real partner and shares the childcare responsibilities equally. Because I place value on what I achieve and the impact I have. Because I try to always be present when I’m at work, at home, or at play. 

It’s not always easy. But it’s worth it. I love work, I love being a mummy, and I do my best to live every moment of my life. 

As a senior business leader, my commitment is to do whatever I can to ensure that women (and men for that matter) have the tools and the confidence to blend careers and lives. No one in 2017 should have to choose between having a successful career and a fulfilled life.

The politics of hate and despair

I was once called a political animal. My blood ran Labour Red. My nickname is RedRobbo. At one point not so long ago I could never have imagined leaving the Labour Party, never mind consider voting for another political party. But if a week in politics is a long time, 10 years can be devastating. 

I joined the Party in 1997 when I started university. Like most of the country, Tony Blair inspired me. He gave me hope. He gave me opportunity. And he made me believe that I, a working class girl from the west of Scotland, could be anything I wanted to be. 

The Labour Party then stood for equality, opportunity, fairness, support for the most vulnerable, celebration of the most successful. It was a Party that wanted to change the country for the better.

When Blair left 10 years ago, I knew things were going to change. I knew Brown would be the next leader, and I knew we would lose the next election. What I hoped was that it would be a wake up call, and that we would choose a candidate that was as progressive as Blair had been in 1995. But no, we choose Ed and the progressives in Labour fell silent. Then we choose Corbyn and it was Armageddon. 

The result of the EU referendum, and the lacklustre destructive role of Corbyn made my membership of the Labour Party untenable and I resigned in June 2016. At that point I hoped to return when a new leader and new progressive agenda was developed. But I now believe that will never happen. 

The decision last night regarding Ken Livingstone’s anti-semetic views and conduct is the most disgraceful thing I have seen in recent years. The Labour Party has become a political vehicle that is no longer a safe space or living the values that I believe progressive politics are about. 

Worse it sends a message to Jewish families like mine, right from the core structures of the party that hatred of Jews and Holocaust revisionism are a mild inconvenience. I don’t need to quote anyone to know how putting a party like that in government might end.

The Labour Party has become representative of the politics of hate and despair. Corbyn and his cronies should be deeply ashamed. But they are not.

http://m.huffpost.com/uk/entry/uk_58e4b71fe4b0d0b7e1663303

There are still some great MPs in the Parliamentary Labour Party. Some great councillors across the country. Some great members knocking on doors. But they are now the minority. The British people don’t want to hear from Labour any more. The ship is sinking fast and for those that believe in progressive politics it is time to abandon ship. It is time to offer the British people something new. Something exciting. It is time to offer us a glimmer of hope. 

Don’t leave your door open, leave yourself open

I’ve always prided myself as being a door open, approachable, fun colleague. As I’ve got more senior I’ve tried to maintain that, and I’m not afraid to admit that it’s hard. I also totally subscribe to the mantra, that in work, it is better to be respected than liked. So it is a really difficult balance to strike!

I read this article today and it really made me think about how I can make myself more accessible and approachable to colleagues at all levels. 

https://hbr.org/2017/03/the-problem-with-saying-my-door-is-always-open?utm_campaign=hbr&utm_source=linkedin&utm_medium=social

One thing I’ve done since returning from maternity leave is hot desking all over the office. It has given me the opportunity to get to know people who joined when I was out. But also for them to see that I’m just like them in many ways. I like the same tele, food, wine, travel. It also lets them see the work I do. On clients. On new business. Helping the business to grow in any way I can. I think, and hope, it is making me more accessible. 

Many things struck me about this article, but this piece of advice cut deep:

‘carefully holding your tendency for extraversion in check so that others get a moment to speak up’

I’m terrible at this! I know I’ve got a big personality, I know my brain operates at 100 miles an hour, I know that I can dominate a conversation, I know that I can get carried away quickly….. I’m very aware of it, and I need to get better at managing it. 

So here’s my goal for the next 3 months (apparently that’s how long it takes to form a habit) I’m going to try and be the last person to speak in meetings (or at least not be in the first 3!). I’m going to write down my first thoughts, then I’m going to actively listen to every single person, and then I’m going to see what impact there is on my own opinion and point of view. 

This is not going to be easy for me. And I’ll need some of my colleagues to keep me in check. But hopefully it will make me a better colleague, a stronger leader, more accessible to people at all levels. And the impact? Surely it will mean we make better decisions. 

I’ll report back in 3 months.